Commentary: Cultural clothing should not be borrowed without knowledge of its history


Melissa Rodriguez Garcia

Girls on the app TikTok, pictured above, have been stealing elements of the Chicana style and labelling it “basic”.

Cultural clothing is everywhere.

You see it in movies, fashion shows and you can even see fashion trends emerge from it. 

It’s great to represent and praise cultures for their uniqueness and beauty, but when and how is it okay to wear these clothes?

When a group of girls were seen in a TikTok video wearing a style similar to Chicana style and calling it basic, those who are a part of the Chicana culture were infuriated.

Chicanas are women born in the United States whose families originated in Mexico. These women protested and struggled to gain justice and created their own culture. 

That protest was called the Chicano Movement, which was very similar to the recent Black Lives Matter movement because it centers around gaining justice after decades of racism against people of color.

Seeing girls who didn’t originate from Mexico and knowing nothing about the history, wearing these clothes enraged many people. People went on saying those who aren’t Chicanas want the culture and not the struggle and that the style is not basic, it’s rooted deeply in culture.

“These girls probably didn’t mean to be offensive, but… taking a piece of culture without knowing the history is definitely not (okay),” Maria Rodriguez, who lived in Mexico for most of her life, said. “Us Mexicans didn’t go through (the movement) just so people can make a trend out of it.”

It is not only wearing the clothes. Changing those cultural clothes is also not good at all. 

And this is not an isolated incident. There have been many instances where people, including celebrities, have dressed in cultural clothes, resulting in the enragement of many people across the internet.

One example of this was when the singing group, Little Mix, was caught wearing untraditional dresses with Asian patterns. 

People felt that it was offensive because their choice of clothing did not accurately represent the culture as a whole and ignored the traditional clothing found in Asian culture.

It doesn’t bother me as much when people wear cultural clothing,” Faith Baguinguito said. “As long as they don’t make fun of it or make stuff up.”

Along with cultural appropriation, changing cultural clothes, wearing them without knowing the history and not taking the time to research about the struggles and successes of that culture is disrespectful,

It’s really not okay to be ignorant of the history behind the clothes, especially if there is a controversial or powerful history behind them.

Different people from different backgrounds and places in the world have their own opinion on this serious topic.

Some think it’s completely fine to wear cultural clothes as long as they’re not being disrespectful.

Others think it’s not fine at all and think that only people from the select culture should wear these clothes. 

Yet the question still remains, is it okay to wear cultural clothing without knowing the history behind it? The answer merely depends on who the audience is and how you are wearing the clothes. 

As long as you’re not being disrespectful to the culture and not completely stealing a piece of history, you can respectfully represent a rich culture.